A Basket Goes to the Beach, c. 1900 Ann Currie-Bell Collection
July 17, 2006
BASKET EXHIBITION "HOLD EVERYTHING" TO OPEN AT THE SOUTHOLD HISTORICAL SOCIETY
SOUTHOLD, NY. The Southold Historical Society is pleased to announce the opening of its summer exhibition, "Hold Everything: An Exhibition of Baskets & Fiber Containers Created by Local Artisans." The exhibition will open to the public on Saturday, July 29th, 2006 and will run through Sunday, September 3rd, 2006.
Long Island's rich history of period and contemporary basket making will be explored in this exhibition. Basket making on Long Island followed a traditional format - with most being utilitarian in design, shape, and detailing. They were made to work, and work hard. The traditions of New England helped to foster styles and shapes on Long Island that were closely related to those of the northeast. Most Native American Indian tribes in New England had traditionally made their baskets from out of "swamp," black, or brown Ash. Ash is a very strong wood and was used for a variety of other objects that needed to be used on a daily basis. The Indian tribes of eastern Long Island would have been subject to the influence of this tradition, especially with the constant contact with the tribes of present-day southern Connecticut and Rhode Island though they would more often utilize White Oak rather than Ash in their basket making.
During the occupation of Long Island during the majority of the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) baskets appear to have been used in another manner - to relieve the tension. Henry Onderdonk of Queens wrote about the activities of the Hessian (German mercenaries) soldiers who occupied many of the homes in his neighborhood: "The Hessians were more sociable than the English soldiers, and often made little baskets and other toys for the children, taught them German and amused them in various ways.'' The introduction of yet another basket making (this time Germanic) tradition does not seem to have influenced the firmly rooted practices already established in the region.
It is interesting to note that basket making was by no means an activity done exclusively by women. Men also made baskets. In Southold, for example, James Wells Horton (b. 1796) made extremely fine quality baskets. Born on Great Hog Neck, he was the son of Barnabas and Mehitable Wells Horton. A resident of Indian Neck in Peconic, Wells was actively making baskets during the mid 19th century, a time when small shops were beginning to lose ground to major factories and regional centers of basket making.
One local group that continues the American basket weaving tradition is the Basket Weavers Guild of Eastern Long Island, founded in 1992 by Barbara Blossey-Chuvalas, the co-curator and one of the exhibitors in this show.
A native of Michigan, Ms. Blossey-Chuvalas has been studying, teaching, and making baskets for over twenty years. She is also a member in good standing of the Long Island Basket Makers Guild, Association of Michigan Basketmakers, the Fingerlakes Basketmakers Guild, the Heritage Basketry Guild of Dayton, Ohio, the National Basketry Organization, the North Carolina Basketmakers Association, and the virtual Basketry Guild. Her award winning baskets are held in collections in the United States, Japan, Germany, Spain, New Zealand, and Sweden. She continues to teach and work out of her home in Riverhead, New York.
Carol Tsaousis, co-founder of the Long Island Basketmakers Guild, will be exhibiting contemporary baskets utilizing paper, copper wire, and other materials, experimenting in unique ways with color, texture and shape. She has been weaving baskets for over 20 years, specializing in traditional basketry using ash, birch bark, and natural materials. Her venture into contemporary basket making began six years ago, and she garnered the People’s Choice Award for her contemporary basket entry in the 2005 Northeast Basketmakers Guild Gathering show and exhibit. In recent years, she has won First Place–Naturals (2004), First Place (2003) and Best in Show (2002) at the Riverhead County Fair, and has participated in Guild exhibits at the Sands Point Museum, Heckscher Museum Shop and at the Long Island Basketmakers Guild Annual Exhibit and Sale. She considers herself an avid basket making hobbyist, having learned from many accomplished basket makers and fellow guild members. She first studied with noted basket maker Alice Wanser of the Stony Brook Museum (now the Long Island Museum).
Baskets made by Margaret Britton, another guild member, are also included in this exhibition. Ms. Britton was born on Long Island and received her B.A. in Fine Arts and an M.A. in Library Science. Always interested in crafts, she has worked in the art of stained glass and has produced many windows for various churches on Long Island. She has developed and intense interest in basketry over the years which is reflected in the worked included in this exhibition.
In addition to the work of the guild, a selection of period baskets from the collection of the Society will also be included. Made by many different local residents over the past 150 year they help us to further understand the rich tradition of basket making in America and on eastern Long Island.
The exhibition will be on display in the Mayne Gallery, located in the Society's Ann Currie-Bell House on the Museum Complex on the Corner of Maple Lane and Main Road, Southold.
For further information please contact the Historical Society at (631) 765-5500 or visit us on the web at www.southoldhistoricalsociety.org.